Time to shake up the FIFA Club World Cup

For one reason or another I took a particular interest in last year’s FIFA Club World Cup held in Japan.

It may have been the involvement and respectable performances of two of Asia’s leading clubs – Sanfrecce Hiroshima from the host nation and Chinese squillionaires Guangzhou Evergrande – or the relatively friendly timeslots in which the games were broadcast live via Fox Football to Australia from the land of the rising sun.

Yet despite the impressive goalscoring feats of FC Barcelona’s Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez or the fighting spirit displayed by Hajime Moriyasu’s freshly minted J.League Champions, to me there seemed to be much missing from what is purported by FIFA to be the globe’s most significant trophy for clubs.

Indeed, I reckon the time is right to revaluate and rejig how the tournament is run and won, and even hold it less often yet in a far bigger way in order to give it the kudos it deserves. In my opinion, the FIFA Club World Cup ought to become a standalone competition held over a month, precisely like the FIFA World Cup is.

Admittedly, the idea of a month-long tournament for clubs raises plenty of potential problems that would need to be navigated in its developmental and organisational phases. Chief among the hazards would be the differing times of year in which the world’s domestic and continental competitions are contested, player availability, national team calendars, and much more.

But for me the potential positives of holding the tournament like a FIFA World Cup could outweigh the negatives, and could ensure that the FIFA Club World Cup becomes a far more interesting feature on the global football schedule.

Anticipation makes a good thing last, so holding the tournament once every four years rather than annually would provide significant lead time for supporters around the world – both of the qualified clubs and not – to get excited about the competition. There’d also be some truly unique and diverse match-ups, further demonstrating the inclusive and culturally extraordinary nature of football.

Moreover, there’d be the opportunity for more clubs to represent their nation and region in intercontinental competition and aspire to global greatness. Currently, one club from each confederation qualifies to play in the FIFA Club World Cup – seven teams. An eighth club – the Champions of the host nation (in 2015 Sanfrecce Hiroshima) – also enter the fray.

I’d propose that each Confederation’s slots for the FIFA Club World Cup largely mirror that of the FIFA World Cup. For Russia 2018, FIFA have allocated Africa five places, Asia 4.5, Europe 13, North, Central America & Caribbean 3.5, Oceania 0.5, and South America 4.5. A representative from the host nation (1) rounds out the 32 teams.

For the FIFA Club World Cup, the allocations may be similar to this:
» CAF: 4 places – a continental Champion per year qualifies
» AFC: 4 places – a continental Champion per year qualifies
» UEFA: 12 places – a continental Champion per year plus runners-up qualifies, plus four Europa League Champions qualify
» CONCACAF: 4 places – a continental Champion per year qualifies
» CONMEBOL: 6 places – a continental Champion per year qualifies, while the remaining two places are determined from two play-off winners from the four runners-up
» OFC: 1 place – the most recent continental Champion qualifies
» HOST: 1 place
» TOTAL: 32 clubs

Granted, the idea presented here is not fool proof and there could be many holes shot in the concept. But if FIFA are indeed serious about making the FIFA Club World Cup the most prestigious prize on offer for clubs, than the tournament in which its won simply must evolve to be much more than a week-long, fly-in-fly-out mission in which UEFA’s or CONMEBOL’s Champion can be crowned kings of the world after merely 180 minutes of match play.

What changes would you make to improve the FIFA Club World Cup? Let me know via Twitter.